As summer’s roasting hot temperatures come to an end, many start thinking of roasting marshmallows over a hot fire.
While nothing beats a classic s’more, with gadgets both old and new, there are endless concoctions to create over a bonfire whether it’s at home, outside an recreational vehicle or a fire whipped together with two sticks in the woods.
Even before the pandemic, camping was gaining popularity, so there are many gadgets and gizmos hitting the market to capitalize on the demand.
As with gadgets used in your home kitchen, you’ll want to go for some that can create multiple meals because if you thought your kitchen was cramped, wait until you start cramming things in your odd shaped camper cabinets.
For tools that will be used repeadly, consider cast iron builds that are both tough and durable to last you fire after fire.
They are also better at distributing heat than aluminum tools which can sometimes lead to burnt spots.
However, cast iron can be pretty heavy, so while a great investment for some, if backpacking or tent trips are more your speed, go with a lighter choice, such as aluminum.
The weight of cast iron is also a consideration if you have smaller campers who may be starting to cook on their own over the fire.
One of the most versatile and beloved camping gadgets is a pie iron, which contrary to its name, offers endless savory and sweet possibilities for breakfast, lunch, dinner and certainly dessert.
They are a fun choice for a small family or group as everything can be the same but different so everyone can have their favorite.
When using a pie iron, you’ll generally start with some sort of outer shell, whether that’s sandwich bread, biscuit dough or tortillas. For breakfast, experiment with food you already have — tater tots, French toast, even cinnamon buns. For eggs, scramble a large batch then let campers cook them further with their favorite toppings or squish into breakfast sandwiches.
For a quick lunch, elevate basic sandwiches like peanut butter-and-jelly, ham-and-cheese or reubens by cooking them over the fire.
With dinner, you can get even more creative with combinations such as buttered bread and spaghetti noodles for a portable Italian feast, pot pies, and even pizza.
Of course, you can’t have a pie iron with no pies. Make it simple with a tube of biscuits or pre-made pie crust and from there experiment with different pie fillings, like pumpkin or cherry mixed in with chocolate, marshmallows.
To keep things simple, especially with a large group, declare it taco night/sandwich night/etc., and bring out a quick platter of make your own fixings with different meats and cheeses. The best part is, change your staple items and for the next night, you can bring out the shredded cheese, tomatoes, and other toppings again for a completely different meal and theme.
The pie iron’s simple handle and hinge design has led to other versions over the years, some with waffle grates, an oval shape for paninis and there is even a version for brats but unless those items are an absolute staple to your family, you’ll be well-fed enough with the original. Irons have also started to morph around in sizes, with space for two creations or one large jumbo creation and more which are worth a look.
Another oldie-but-goodie gadget is a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens are a good option for a crowd, especially a crowd either too young or too relaxed to cook their own. Whether you are cooking for a pair or a party, look for a size pot that suits your group.
Dutch ovens are nature’s Crock Pot and are great for meals that are not only dump-and-go, but are often hearty. Unlike a Crock Pot, though, there’s no temperature setting so when cooking over a fire, you’ll be moving it up for low heat and down for high heat on a tripod. If investing in an oven with a tripod, look for one with a grate option as well so you can rest skewers or aluminum foil packed “silver turtles” to cook.
As for what you can whip up, think again about what you can throw in a Crock Pot. To start your day, layer in breakfast goodies from eggs with hashbrowns or French toast. If eating healthy is a priority for your family, Dutch ovens are good options to pile in the seasonal veggies and ingredients.
For fill-you-up favorites on crisp fall days, simmer up beef stew, jambalaya, zitis, chilis and the like.
If you decide to make dinner over the grill, mix up a sweet bread, cake or cobbler in the Dutch oven so it’s molten and ready for when you are done.
And then there’s the oven’s signature dish — the Dutch baby!
Make it sweet by topping with fruits and a dusting of powdered sugar or savory with cheese, balsamic oil and veggies.
Lastly, it doesn’t get any simpler than a skewer but, thanks to Pinterest, the menu creativity and options have greatly expanded.
Sure, rather than buying you could use a stick but in the days of landscaped, mosquito-controlled glampgrounds, a good stick can be hard to find!
Make meals easier on yourself with some on-the-ready metal skewers, which will also heat your food more evenly from the core as well.
There are two categories to think about when using your skewers– warming and toasting or actual cooking. When brainstorming ideas for warming and toasting, think of anything that you’d throw in the microwave at home.
Let your kids skewer French toast sticks and sausage links or quarter a turkey and cheese sandwich to create crisp bread and gooey cheese. For cooking, think of chopped meats that can be layered with flavors, such as pineapple and ham chunks.
Layer on firm veggies that won’t tear through and drizzle them with marinade.
Eggplant chunks, Brussels sprouts and corn are all good bets. Hasselback potatoes can also be done on a skewer and then topped to make loaded potatoes or added to the side of chili.
These staples can certainly be a good springboard for elevating your camp meals, but if you want to dabble further, consider gadgets that can create the “same but different” meals and snacks.
Try an over-the-fire popper or a pizza stone over the campfire for a fun pizza making night.
Shaking up your hot dog and burger routine with a new cooking gadget may get your neighbors peeking over to see what you are cooking.
Hopefully, you bought enough to share.